British scientists announced Tuesday a major coronavirus breakthrough, saying a cheap, readily-available steroid can prevent deaths from COVID-19. Scientists from Britain’s University of Oxford say in a trial the drug dexamethasone reduced death rates by 35% for patients on ventilators, and by 20% for less immediately critical patients needing oxygen.
Peter Horby, the academic leading the trial, told a Downing Street press conference, “what we saw was really quite remarkable.” Standing by his side, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the trial, hailing it as the “biggest breakthrough yet” in treating COVID-19.
“I am proud of these British scientists, backed by UK government funding, who have led the first, robust clinical trial anywhere in the world to find a coronavirus treatment proven to reduce the risk of death,” Horby said. Johnson added, “we have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak.”
The country’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it is “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far.” Scientists across the globe have been racing to find treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has sickened more than 8 million people and killed more than 430,000.
Dexamethasone is a generic steroid that’s been used for 60 years to reduce inflammation from a range of other conditions, including arthritis and asthma. It is low-cost — in many parts of the world costing just a dollar for a dosage course. Oxford University scientists tested it as part of a collective effort across the world by commercial labs, pharmaceutical companies and universities to existing drugs to see if any can work for the coronavirus.
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